Talking Heads’ Maxine Peake says she ‘panicked’ when first asked to perform Alan Bennett monologue

The actor says that she spent a few weeks "in a state of high anxiety" at the thought of having to follow in Patricia Routledge's footsteps.

Maxine Peake

The original Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues broadcast in the ’80s and ’90s were performed by some of the country’s most celebrated ever actors – so you’d imagine being asked to take on one of the roles would come with a degree of pressure.

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And Maxine Peake, who stars in the upcoming revival of the iconic series, has said that her first thought on being asked to perform a new version of one of the monologues was one of panic.

“These are classic pieces of writing performed originally by the best in the business,” she said. “I said yes straight away then spent the next few weeks in a state of high anxiety.”

Peake is starring in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet, playing a role originated by legendary actress Patricia Routledge, and she explained that trying to live up to those expectations added to the woes.

“The magnificent Patricia Routledge is unsurpassable and also I’m 20 years younger than when Patricia did it, so I didn’t know if I could convince people I’m a suitable Miss Fozzard,” she said.

Peake added that she grew up with the original series, claiming she had the book with the scripts and used to regularly perform Her Big Chance (the monologue being performed by Jodie Comer this time) when she was auditioning for drama school.

And Peake said that calling Alan Bennett while preparing for the role was like a dream come true, saying, “I did give Alan a call. More because I’m a huge admirer of his work so I wanted to say hello. He was delightful! So complimentary and encouraging. It was definitely a career highlight for me.”

Talking Heads will begin on BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday 23 June with a double-bill featuring Imelda Staunton in A Lady of Letters and Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman. All twelve Talking Heads will be available to stream as a boxset on BBC iPlayer. To see the full Talking Heads cast check out our guide.

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